Sunday, August 7, 2022

Flim-Flam! Book Report by Audrey Reppert

    For our class’ book report assignment, I chose to select Flim-Flam! written by James Randi. The reason behind my selection is that I found it very interesting that Randi is a popular magician who also was greatly known for debunking various ESP claims. What an oxymoron! This entire book was filled with witty sarcastic comments that engaged the audience. He began his book stating “As a professional magician who has performed in every part of the world for more than thirty years, I have endured long sessions with persons who claim to have psychic or magical abilities. There are only two kinds: those who really believe they have these powers, and those who think I am so dense that I will not detect their trickery. Both groups are wrong.” Randi shows the reader how to think critically, and how to look out for trickery.

The section on the Bermuda Triangle was very interesting, and I won’t lie, part of me is slightly disappointed that Randi was able to debunk it so well based on how intriguing the mystery behind the Bermuda Triangle is. A man named Charles Berlitz, author of The Bermuda Triangle, Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds, and Without a Trace really struck a nerve for Randi. Berlitz profited off of others’ claims of disappearances around the Bermuda Triangle, and wrote his own false claims. To demonstrate how people can use false claims to manipulate others and expose it for others to see, Randi included how an author named Larry Kusche challenged Berlitz by offering him $10,000 as long as he provided proof of his claim of a giant pyramid on the seafloor, to which Berlitz declined. It’s interesting to see how people like Berlitz backtrack when they’re called out for their false claims for personal benefits. This is just one example of how Randi exposed somebody’s lies, and he does a great job at it. In this book, Randi also discusses fairy sightings, UFOs, psychic surgeries, and many more.

My favorite section of Flim-Flam! was the section on astrology. Randi states “(Astrology) certainly serves to release man from having to take the blame for his own stupidities. A bad conjunction of planets can always be blamed for unfortunate circumstances.” Reading this made me laugh because he is right. The amount of times I’ve heard people blame negative occurrences on how “mercury is in retrograde” is absurd. Since I was young I’ve always enjoyed reading about astrology and examining my birth chart. I frequently make jokes such as “Sorry I’m so indecisive, it’s the libra in me.” Do I actually believe that a birthday has anything to do with one’s personality, decision making, and logic? Absolutely not. I know people who swear by astrology and use their astrological sign as an excuse for poor decisions they make or beliefs that they hold. When you think about it, it really doesn’t make much sense. Another funny quote made by Randi is, “It has become almost impossible to attend a social gathering without being asked for your astrological sign.” So true! There have been countless times where I meet someone for the first time and the first question that they ask is for me to reveal my sign, or if I can guess theirs. I know pretty much nothing about signs other than mine other than the stereotypes of cancers being crybabies and leos loving a spotlight, so I just throw random guesses out there and hope for the best.

Similar to the section regarding psychics and fortune tellers that was covered in class lecture and how psychics will use manipulative tactics by stating general information that could apply to anyone, Randi decided to perform psychic readings acting as an anonymous fortune teller over the phone. He asked participants to rate the accuracy of the readings on a scale from 1-10 after completion. Randi told the first listener, a laborer, that he disliked hard work to which the laborer stated he’d become accustomed to it. Randi replied, “I said that you disliked hard work.” The listener told him he was right and rated him a 10. When Randi announced who he really was and that he wasn’t a real psychic, all three listeners immediately hung up the phone. It’s crazy how susceptible people can become to a psychic art of manipulation.      

I chose to create a drawing for the creative aspect of this assignment. Here we are looking at the human mind, but the areas of the brain are taken up by different areas of ESP. Each little picture inside the brain are topics covered by James Randi in Flim-Flam!

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